Optimism is associated with health benefits and improved survival among adults older than age 65. But what about individuals older than 85?

In an article in the February 20 issue of The Journals of Gerontology, Hadassah Medical Organization researchers from its Department of Geriatric Rehabilitation and the Center for Palliative Care report their finding that optimism is associated with greater longevity for adults older than 85 and even those older than 90.

In their Jerusalem Longitudinal Study (1990–2020), the researchers assessed five-year mortality among a representative community sample of individuals born in 1920 and 1921. They measured the cohort’s overall optimism at both age 85 and age 90 using a validated seven-item score from the Scale of Subjective Wellbeing for Older Persons. The four questions concerning positive future expectations (Op-Future) and three questions concerning positive experiences (Op-Happy) were also analyzed separately.

The researchers adjusted for gender, financial difficulty, marital status, educational status, dependence in performing activities of daily living, physical activity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, cognitive impairment, and depression. Whether adjusted or unadjusted in terms of these circumstances, the researchers report, “All measures of optimism were significantly associated with improved five-year survival from age 85 to 90 and from 90 to 95.” In addition, they note, men were ”significantly more optimistic than females.”

The authors conclude, ”These findings support the hypothesis that being optimistic continues to confer a survival benefit irrespective of advancing age.”